Wild Tiger Numbers Up: First Time in 100 Years

Young female tiger in the wild in India's Kanha National Park, June 2015 (Photo by Rohit Varma)


NEW DELHI, India, April 11, 2016 (ENS) – The number of tigers living in the wild has increased to 3,890 animals, the first uptick in the global wild tiger population in 100 years, World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum announced today.

The new numbers were released ahead of an important tiger conservation meeting to be opened tomorrow in New Delhi by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This updated minimum figure, compiled from IUCN data and the latest national tiger surveys, indicates an increase on the 2010 estimate of “as few as 3,200,” due to improved surveys and enhanced protection. Observers have counted increases in tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.

Young female tiger in the wild in India’s Kanha National Park, June 2015 (Photo by Rohit Varma)

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, is encouraged by the increase in wild tigers. “For the first time after decades of constant decline, tiger numbers are on the rise. This offers us great hope and shows that we can save species and their habitats when governments, local communities and conservationists work together.”

Chairman of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and WWF board member actor Leonardo DiCaprio says he is optimistic after supporting tiger conservation with $6.2 million committed since 2010.

At a conference in St. Petersburg, Russia in that Year of the Tiger, all 13 countries with wild tigers pledged to double their number by 2022 and adopted a Global/National Tiger Recovery Programme.

The improved wild tiger numbers appear to be a direct result of conservation efforts that originated with that pledge.

“In Nepal, our efforts have produced one of the greatest areas of progress in tiger conservation, which is helping drive this global increase in population,” said DiCaprio. “I am so proud that our collective efforts have begun to make progress toward our goal, but there is still so much to be done.”

“I am optimistic about what can be achieved when governments, communities, conservationists and private foundations like ours come together to tackle global challenges,” DiCaprio said.

Now, six years later and halfway to the year of reckoning, 2022, another conference is again gathering all the actors that DiCaprio mentioned.

The meeting of tiger range governments at the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation this week is the latest step in the Global Tiger Initiative process that began with the 2010 Tiger Summit in Russia.

“This is a critical meeting taking place at the halfway point in the Tx2 goal,” said Dr. Rajesh Gopal, secretary general, Global Tiger Forum. “Tiger governments will decide the next steps towards achieving this goal and ensuring wild tigers have a place in Asia’s future.”

More than 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders are gathering in New Delhi to discuss issues related to tiger conservation.

Ministers and government officials from all Tiger Range Countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam will attend.

While several tiger range countries like India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan have registered an increase in tiger population, tigers are still classed as Endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN.

Prime Minister Modi will address the conference on the essential role tigers play as a symbol of a country’s ecological well-being.

Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “We have allotted Rs.380.00 crore (US$57.2 million) to Project Tiger in the current fiscal year, which is an all-time high and indicates that the Government of India is committed to the conservation of our national animal, the tiger.”

Javadekar said that due to the concerted efforts of the government and other stakeholders, more than 70 percent of the global wild tiger population is in India.

He said that saving the tiger means much more than ecological balance, “It is helping in combating adverse effects of climate change as well.

Tiger populations have been reduced to a “non-viable level in some range countries, which is a cause for concern,” Indian officials said.

B.S. Bonal, Project Tiger director general and secretary with India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, said delegates will discuss landscape conservation and habitat management, tiger reintroduction, monitoring protocols, anti-poaching strategy, modern tools and technology for monitoring and resource mobilization.

Bonal said that the countries will report the status and progress of their Global/National Tiger Recovery programs and will issue a “futuristic declaration for tiger conservation.”

Ahead of this week’s Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, 23 conservation groups are calling on delegates to commit to a policy pursuing zero demand for tiger parts and products in their declaration.

Tiger at a Thailand tiger farm (Photo by Brett Mumford)

The groups say conservation successes occur in tiger range countries with strong laws, where wild tigers are valued for the role they play in the ecosystem, not in those tiger range countries where tiger farming exists and where they are valued as a commodity.

There are an estimated 7,000 tigers in captivity in tiger farms in Southeast Asia and China, the groups point out.

The Chinese government has authorized a domestic trade in the skins of captive-bred tigers for use as luxury home decor and for taxidermy. This stimulates demand and increases pressure on the remaining wild tigers instead of reducing it, the groups say.

The groups assert that tigers in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Russian Far East are still being targeted for markets in China and for consumers in Myanmar and Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Tigers are killed for their skins; their bones are used to brew tiger bone wine, their meat is sold as a delicacy and their teeth and claws are sold as charms.

The 23 groups say that many facilities that keep tigers are engaged in legal and illegal trade, both domestic and international, in parts and derivatives of tigers.

They are calling on tiger range countries “to unite in a commitment to end tiger farming and to end all domestic and international trade in parts and derivatives of tigers from captive facilities.”

On the other hand, a new study by a team of Thai and international scientists finds that a depleted tiger population in Thailand is rebounding due to enhanced protection.

This is the only site in Southeast Asia where tigers are confirmed to be increasing in population. It is also the first-ever long-term study of tiger population dynamics in Southeast Asia.

The Government of Thailand in collaboration with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS, established an intensive patrol system in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in 2006 to curb poaching of tigers and their prey, and to recover what is possibly the largest remaining “source” population of wild tigers in mainland Southeast Asia.

“The protection effort is paying off as the years have progressed, as indicated by the increase in recruitment, and we expect the tiger population to increase even more rapidly in the years to come,” said the study’s lead author Somphot Duangchantrasiri.

To monitor the tigers, the scientists employed rigorous, annually repeated camera trap surveys, during which tigers were photographed and identified from their stripe patterns, combined with advanced statistical models.

Monitoring of the population from 2005-2012 identified 90 individual tigers and an improvement in tiger survival and recruitment over time.

“This collaboration between WCS and the Thai government used the most up-to-date methodologies for counting tigers,” said Dr. Ullas Karanth, a senior scientist with WCS and one of the authors of the study. “It’s gratifying to see such rigorous science being used to inform critical conservation management decisions.”

Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund, said, “We see that leaders matter. Communities matter. And coalitions matter. Now is the moment to amplify these efforts and achieve our shared dream to double the wild tiger population by 2022.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2016. All rights reserved.


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